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Essential Steps Towards Exciting and Effective Character Dialogue

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Introduction


Over the past month I felt relatively relaxed. No mysterious emails or messages. No one sending me strange offers and paying me in ways I don't understand. I finally felt like all was back to normal. Third time's the charm right? Well I was wrong. I have a bone to pick with this Vox Chronos dude. He sent me the exact same email as last time. He's probably enjoying a lemonade in the Bahamas or something with his automated email system still on. I tried replying but there was no response. Oh well. At least the pay is automatic so as long as it's his money, here we go. . .



Essential Steps Towards Exciting and Effective Character Dialogue


Have you ever read a book with an interesting plot and details, but the story got dry every time the characters started having a conversation? Many of us have experienced a brilliantly thought-out novel that simply fell short when it came to meaningful and believable character dialogue. Although dialogue isn’t the only element that makes a story great, it is definitely an important aspect that helps readers connect to the storyline and characters.


Stories with boring or ineffective dialogue may unknowingly portray characters that seem robotic, unrealistic, or even redundant. Writers who make this mistake have either 1. Not gotten to know who their characters truly are, or 2. Have not meaningfully observed or studied real conversations. The reality is, effective dialogue can make or break a story.


Your readers must feel and believe what your characters are saying and doing for your story to transform into the page turner you dream it to be! Check out these five essential steps to take to produce exciting and effective character dialogue:


Listen and Learn


It can be difficult to write believable content if you haven’t experienced what you are attempting to write. You have permission, at least from me, to begin eavesdropping on conversations happening around you. Observe and study how others speak to each other and reflect on how you can portray this in your own writing.


Furthermore, don’t just listen to how others are interacting but also watch to see what their expressions and mannerisms portray during the conversation. Notice how people interrupt each other, upset each other, and even take on a high-pitched fake done when they’re trying to manipulate. Noticing all of this will help you when incorporating spot-on dialogue tags!


Know Your Characters


Your readers won’t be able to get to know your characters unless you know your characters first. If you jump into writing a short story or novel without truly knowing who your characters are, all your characters may begin to act the same and say things with similar mannerisms. When this happens, it’s because the writer began to write the story without doing the necessary brain work to set their characters apart from one another.


Get to know your characters by brainstorming characteristics that set them apart from your other characters. Many writers choose to create profiles for each of their characters including mannerisms, backgrounds, relationships, and even physical appearances. This strategy is highly helpful in keeping character information straight and organized while also helping you, as the writer, get to know who your characters really are.


Getting to know your characters should probably, to be most effective, take place before you begin writing your story. This article about creating a successful plan and outline for your novel is a great place to start if you’re beginning the process of writing a book or even short story.


Said is “Dead”


By now, this isn’t a revolutionary or even groundbreaking motto in the world of writing. While “said” is still acceptable to use here-and-there, it should never be the only dialogue tag utilized throughout your novel. There are a variety of other, more expressive, ways to let your readers know exactly how your character was speaking in that moment.


Mix it up! Personally, I like keeping resources like this site open while I’m writing. This allows me to take a peek at the dialogue tag list and determine the best word to use to pinpoint the way my character is speaking. As I mentioned before, characters interrupt, make each other mad, and even aggressively contradict each other. These things happen in real life, and so they should be happening in your book!


Leave Hints and Create Mystery


There are a variety of ways to leave breadcrumb hints and mysterious moments within your story. One of those methods involves dialogue. After your character speaks, it is important to remember that you don’t have to then follow that dialogue with an over explanation of why they said what they said. That is, you don’t have to pause the story to give your readers a reason for why your character sounded rude, romantic, angry, etc.


Have you ever had someone try to explain a joke to you? It’s the same concept. Your readers are intelligent and actively looking for opportunities to make inferences about your story. Over explaining will just kill the excitement and mystery of your story. In addition, giving your readers too much information will teach them to not think deeply about your content as they will become reliant on you spoon feeding them the meaning behind every whisper, cry, or cuss word.


Silence Speaks Volumes


Just like in real life, what isn’t said often says more than what is being said. What your characters are choosing not to say is just as important and compelling as what they do decide to say. In fact, some of the most compelling and interesting characters are the ones who do not have a lot of dialogue written for them. As the writer, you can skillfully balance dialogue with internal thoughts.


This will allow your readers to gain insight into your character’s internal dialogue which will give them a chance to draw their own conclusions about what your character is saying out loud and thinking in their head. Knowing what your characters are thinking, and not saying, will also give your readers a sense of closeness and understanding of your character.




Concluding Thoughts


Brainstorm ways you can incorporate different personality traits, quirks, and mannerisms into your characters’ normal dialogue. This will allow your characters to flourish as their own independent beings within your story. When written effectively, expert-level dialogue and dialogue tags can easily be matched to the characters.


With a keen focus on getting to know who your characters are paired with the repeated practice of studying real-life conversations, you are on your way to creating effective dialogue. For more helpful tips and key practices in writing a bestselling story, check out Five Essential Tips for Writing Believable Characters! Here, you will find a handful of applicable strategies to use while developing and writing about your characters.


I don't know if I'll be invited back to write again. Despite the strange circumstances that brought me here, I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with you.


Happy writing!


Vox Chronos, when your "signal" is working again, you owe me an explanation.


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